America’s appetite for imported goods has kept its economy hot but has yet to “translate into any meaningful pick up in demand” for JB Hunt Transport Services Inc., a top executive for the logistics company said on its quarterly earnings call Tuesday.

Despite volume growth in Southern California, JB Hunt is seeing pressure in terms of rates it can charge customers, especially on the east coast, said Darren Field, president of the firm’s Intermodal segment, which accounts for almost half of company revenue.  

“We have been surprised by how much competition we are seeing in bids,” he said, noting that the number of available trucks industry-wide is now higher than before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

JB Hunt reported quarterly earnings per share of $1.22, below consensus estimates of $1.53. 

Revenue from its Intermodal segment, which involves transporting freight containers from railyards to customers, fell 9.4%. The Arkansas-based company posted a sales decline in all segments except for its Final Mile Services, its second-smallest business. 

Company executives said higher wage, equipment, insurance and claims costs have also eroded profitability.

JB Hunt President Shelley Simpson, who will become chief executive officer in July, told analysts that the ongoing freight downturn has been “more severe in terms of depth and duration” than previous ones, adding that she couldn’t “predict when the current environment will change.”

Freight volumes in March were down 3.6% from a year ago, while freight rates fell 15% in the same period, according to the latest Cass Freight Index.  

But North American freight demand could pick up later this year, as inventory destocking picks up, Bloomberg Intelligence said. Rising imports could also push freight shipments higher, it added.